A Georgia Tech graduate has challenged Yellow Jackets football fans to financially support a recruiting initiative, and the athletic department has been pleased by the response.
The graduate, who has chosen to remain anonymous, offered to put up $200,000 of his own money on a 50 percent matching-fund basis to be earmarked for the hiring of recruiting staff with a ceiling of $400,000. Despite a relatively limited publicity campaign, donors have cleared the $100,000 mark in about two weeks’ time, enough to give athletic director Todd Stansbury the confidence to proceed with a plan to increase the recruiting office by four.
“I feel really good about it,” Stansbury told the AJC last week. “At this point, it’s been kind of a somewhat quiet campaign and the response has been so strong that I think that we’re definitely going to get there and not leave any money on the table.”
The $600,000 total -- $400,000 from donors matched at 50 percent by the anonymous donor – would cover the cost of four recruiting staff for the next two years. Increasing the recruiting office has been a goal of both Stansbury and coach Paul Johnson, something neither has been shy about emphasizing as a priority for Tech’s competitiveness.
“In verbalizing my analysis to donors, potential donors, I had one of our donors come forward and say they would be interested in doing some type of match specifically directed to the needs that I saw we had in recruiting,” Stansbury said. “So that’s kind of how it all started, me really just out there kind of beating that drum and somebody kind of raising their hand and saying that ‘I want to help.’”
The donor, who answered questions via email through the Tech communications office, said his decision to issue the fund-matching challenge stemmed from a desire to help his alma mater and particularly coach Paul Johnson and the team. He said he grew up in South Georgia and saw firsthand the success he had at Georgia Southern with the late Erk Russell and later at Navy.
“We’ve definitely moved up in competitiveness at GT since (Johnson) arrived,” he wrote. “So, I’m a believer. But, I also believe we have to evolve to get to the level we want to be at, and that requires resources.”
The donor, a Tech graduate and an Atlanta resident in his 40’s, said that for Tech to reach the next level, “it’s really important that we engage our broader fan base and alumni. Todd agrees with this and we are using this as a test case in an area that resonates strongly with a subset of our alumni/fan base.”
Stansbury said “grassroots fund-raising” is growing in popularity.
“Not everybody can write a huge check to build a football locker room, but, knowing that recruiting is such a hot topic at all times, it does give people that are inclined and are obviously invested emotionally an opportunity to help in an area that we definitely had a need in,” Stansbury said.
The athletic department’s goal is to reach $200,000 in donations by national signing day (Feb. 7), which would be matched by $100,000 from the donor. That would provide enough funding to cover four staff positions for the next year.
The team has four staff in its recruiting office.
By the 2019-20 academic year, the athletic department’s expectation is that it can fund the new positions from its annual budget, as the buyouts for former basketball coaches Paul Hewitt ($906,250 annually through the 2018-19 academic year) and Brian Gregory ($537,500 in 2017-18) will have cleared and distributions from the ACC Network (planned launch in 2019) will begin.
The plan is for three analysts, one for talent identification for offense, one for defense and one for early-stage (freshman and sophomore) talent identification. The fourth position will be focused on brand development and new media applications for outreach.
A letter to prospective donors outlined a strategy to increase geographical scope and to target high schools “that have the right blend of academics and athletics that fit with our values and with a student body that embraces the unique opportunity to play football in a vibrant, urban environment.”
It is another initiative that Stansbury has led to reinforce the football team and supply Johnson with requested assistance. Another is a locker-room renovation, a $4.5 million project scheduled to begin this week.
The donor said his gift is in the “normal range” of donations that he has made annually to Tech, about 40 percent of which has been given to athletics. His hope is that providing for additional recruiting staff will enable coaches to broaden their scope to find fits for Tech.
“The fact that we have a tight academic focus is a blessing and a challenge,” he wrote. “The blessing is that every degree we offer has high commercial value – STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees are the present and the future. The challenge is that too many high school athletes aren’t thinking through what they need to do to be eligible for a school like GT until it is too late. We have to compensate for this by selectively recruiting more broadly and earlier to ensure that we have the talent that can compete for championships consistently.”